The Rev. Karen Perkins.

The Rev. Karen Perkins.

Living & Growing: A ‘virtuous cycle’ of service and connectedness

This is an invitation.

Loneliness and isolation are epidemic across the country. And lethal. The COVID-19 pandemic years exaggerated these realities for many of us, even for those who already knew or felt it to be true. Various publications have been written about the increases in depression, anxiety, substance misuse, obesity, household violence, and dementia. And the grief. Most of us have lost people over the last three years — often people who died from something other than the virus. We will probably never be able to calculate how many people we lost due to despair. Whether or not we can attribute their deaths to the pandemic, we know they were also casualties.

Last week the U.S. Surgeon General published an advisory that goes deeper, and measures some of, what we may have sensed intuitively. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community identifies isolation and loneliness as a public health concern. Across multiple disciplines, we hear that increasing loneliness and its consequences was a national trend before COVID-19 exacerbated it. We are shown startling numbers correlating social connectedness with a range of positive outcomes including: individual and population health, community safety, resilience, and prosperity. The negative impacts of isolation and loneliness are costing us as individuals and as a society. Increased healthcare costs, lost productivity and lower academic achievement come to more than $150 billion annually. Additionally, these components contribute to a vicious cycle of decline.

The advisory also documents the numerous biological, psychological, behavioral, educational and community benefits of social connectedness. Social connectedness is measured in terms of time spent with family, number of close friends, involvement in community organizations and volunteerism. Those who have satisfying relationships or interactions that require empathetic attention to others have better health, live longer, and describe themselves as happier. Those who are active in faith communities know this to be true as certainly as we know people have been suffering. The Surgeon General’s advisory provides dramatic numbers corroborating this awareness. Fortunately, there is a “virtuous cycle” of service and connectedness that reinforces improved wellbeing across categories.

Those who are more connected to their communities are more likely to engage in service, and those who are engaged in service are more likely to feel connected to their communities and the individuals in it. Interestingly, there is also evidence showing that the well-being benefits associated with volunteering are even greater for those with higher social connectedness than those with less.

Because these cycles can be reinforcing, prioritizing social connection can not only disrupt vicious cycles but also reinforce virtuous ones, according to page 21 of the advisory.

This is the invitation. The urgent need. The demand of any who would contribute to the health of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nation. If you check out the advisory, you will see that the lack of social connection increases the risk of premature death more than smoking (15/day), drinking alcohol (6/day), obesity, inactivity, or other risk factors. Calling a friend, sharing a meal, joining a group, volunteering, or putting down the phone to give someone your attention face-to-face is something you can do today for your own well-being and that of another.

Of course, this is something that most of us who are connected with faith communities take on, well, faith. We experience it. And many of us would be thrilled to have you experience it with us. If you have a tradition, maybe you will seek an opportunity to be in that community this week. Or you can come enjoy people and music at a Spring Ring and Sing Concert at Resurrection Lutheran Church, this Sunday, May 14, at 3 p.m. Be well.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” — Romans 12:15-18 (NRSV)

The Rev. Karen Perkins is pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

More in Neighbors

Jane Hale (Courtesy Photo)
Coming Out: Partial Reflections

Let your verses be an adventure Scattering on the morning wind the… Continue reading

Jacque Tagaban (left) and Adam Bauer (right) smile for a photo at the Alaska Bahá’í National Convention in late May. (Courtesy Photo / Adam Bauer)
Living & Growing: Justice proceeds from unity which comes through consultation

Before I proceed, I wish to thank Áak’w Kwáan and T’aaku Kwáan… Continue reading

Jane Hale
Coming Out: Ch- ch- ch- ch- changes

It’s always a gamble, a risk, a chance. We should be stuttering.

This combination images includes a picture of Larry chopping ice for water in Brevig Mission 1972, a picture of Mark and Laura watching seal skin preparation 1972. A picture at Fish Camp in 1972. (Courtesy Photos / Laura Rorem)
Living & Growing: Beyond what we know

“You stupid white people, you have no business trying to come ashore… Continue reading

Courtesy Photo /  Gina Del Rosari
Living & Growing: To Jesus through Mary

I am a Roman Catholic, was born and raised in the Philippines… Continue reading

Gimme a Smile: AI is coming—oh wait, it’s already here

AI is on everyone’s radar these days. Artificial Intelligence — it can… Continue reading

By 1914 when this photo was taken, Juneau had developed into an established city. The Victorian era turreted Alaska Steam Laundry (built 1901) is seen on the left, while other buildings such as the Alaskan Hotel and Central Rooming House are on the right. The rooming house was reconstructed in the 1980s. It is now the Senate Mall. (Alaska State Library-P31-021).
Rooted in Community: Alaska Steam Laundry and the MacKinnon Family

Perhaps sharing the leading roles in Juneau High School’s 1915 theatrical play… Continue reading

Thank you letter or the week of May 14

“Thank you Alaska Federation of Natives for a legacy of leadership”

Klas Stolpe
Pure Sole: A remembrance of my mother

The aroma of lupine lingered in the air at my mother’s deathbed.

The Rev. Karen Perkins.
Living & Growing: A ‘virtuous cycle’ of service and connectedness

This is an invitation.